25 12, 2022

The Purpose of Christmas


Lying in bed, fast asleep, I’m startled awake by a thump on the roof. And then I hear some distant bells. Quickly I leap out of bed and run down the hall to our family room. It’s pitch black. No one is awake. There on the family table, the cookie tray has only crumbs and the milk has been consumed. Santa was clearly here! And then a glance at the tree, a sea of wrapped presents — including a gold Schwinn bike with my name on it. I’m so excited I can hardly stand it. I want to wake everyone up, but a glance at the clock says it’s only 5 am. “My parents will kill me if I wake them up,” I’m thinking. So I go back to my bed, anxious, ready to wait it out. And I fall fast asleep again, only to be awakened by my brother, who woke up and experienced the same thing at about 7 am. So we make a lot of noise until our parents happen to wake up. And Christmas arrives.

The wonder of Christmases past will live on in my great memories forever. One of my favorite things has been the privilege of providing that same wonder to my kids. Such joy, such energy, such awe. There is simply nothing better.

Family Excitement

As I spoke to my friends and team members this past week, they were excited about seeing their families, their parents, their grandparents, nieces and nephews. The joy of family is such an exciting time, a time to generate memories, and a time to implant special lessons.

When I think back through my childhood, I remember visits to Grandma and Grandpa’s, Christmas with cousins, aunts, and uncles, opening gifts, cuddling on the couch, running up and down the stairs, singing Christmas carols, seeing family friends we don’t see any other time of the year, and meeting people my folks have invited who have nowhere to be. 

Don’t Let This Go to Waste

You’ve all heard the saying “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” uttered by some politician. I say, “Never let a good Christmas go to waste.” Though I never really stopped to think about it, this is what the elders in my family did. 

Your Role in Society

Throughout history, in most societies, the role of elders was just as important as the role of parents. Grandparents had time and patience and wisdom, while parents were working, busy, and exhausted. So it became the grandparents’ role to impart wisdom to their grandchildren, to teach them the important principles of the family. In my case it was Biblical instruction, the role of Christ in our family, the role of self-reliance, work ethic, the importance of strong ethics and principles, the importance of love and family, the role of justice, and so much more.

Voices in My Head

I spent lots of time with my grandparents growing up. I can hear the words my grandfather would say to me: “Put your back into it” when he was teaching me to paint rooms in his house, “Use a stronger sweeping motion” when I was sweeping leaves. It was my grandmother Roxie Goad who helped me understand that loving Christ was not about religions, it was about a one-on-one personal relationship with Christ, requiring no person or institution between me and my savior. She helped me see the power of His love, and that he was God, and that when we accept him, his spirit lives within us. It was never about going to church, or empowering others to rule over us. It was all about living with love, loving others more than ourselves, helping others, not judging others. 

I’m blessed with a great upbringing, wonderful memories of parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, and in most cases, I have boxes of memories and lessons imparted to me in the precious time they spent with me. That included Christmas.

Little Sponges

Impressionable little minds soak up everything. They may be distracted wondering what’s inside that wrapped box someone brought that they can open after dinner, but they hear and take in what the adults are saying and how they are acting. It’s these times they take our cues and learn their lessons from us.

Lessons Imparted

Previously I’ve written about the importance of being deliberate about memories and lessons, and I’m reminded that Christmas, around family, is a great time to impart family history and life lessons. It can be as simple as something spoken briefly in a story.

Knowing Someone I Did Not Know

I don’t know if I ever knew my Grandpa Berry; I don’t remember ever meeting him. I remember his wife, who lived much longer. But the stories over Christmas dinners told me everything I needed to know about the way he treated others, the way he led his family, the character he had, his helping others in need, the big smile he always had on his face, his positive outlook, even though he had to bury his own son at a young age and had family members killed in the Great War. 

My dad used to tell so many stories about Grandpa Berry’s Sinclair gas station, how his customers loved him, about his pranks, his promotions, and his impact on my dad’s life. My dad mentioned that he was the first family member he could not wait to see when he got to Heaven because he missed him so much. I teared up writing this this morning, remembering how my own dad was that way to me and my kids, and how much we miss him. 

But now the role is mine as the elder in my family. No grandkids yet, still just dad, not granddad. But the stories and lessons need to continue. And one day my kids will tell stories to their kids about their grandfather, and hopefully their father.

Story Time

Our role today, when we are gathered with family, is to be storytellers, memory makers, family historians, and to make sure we impart important lessons to those around us. No lectures, no “shoulding,” just helping others see the best attributes they can find within themselves.

I’ll make a point to remember my wonderful father-in-law that the kids barely knew, and my own dad, and my grandparents and great-grandparents, telling their stories, what I learned from them.

I hope you’ll consider doing the same. Because there is no better opportunity than the celebration of Christmas. 

The First Step Before Gifts

Before we open a single gift, I’ll open the books of Luke and Matthew and ask the kids to read the Christmas story, as my parents and grandparents did with us, making sure that we don’t miss the true gift of Christmas.

Each breath we have is a gift. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I could get just one more hour with my parents or grandparents. I’m grateful for the gifts they gave me, and I know that while I’m breathing and able, it’s important to do the same for my family.

It’s my wish that you have a joy-filled Christmas.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Though I make my living by using promotion and marketing skills, I’ve never applied them to my Sunday Coffee message. This started out as a letter to my kids, so that my thoughts on life would someday be heard by them and documented once I’m gone. I told a friend about it, who asked if he could share it with a friend of his. The result has been that this weekly letter has been followed and read by a massive audience. I honestly don’t know how many, but I stopped paying attention when I heard it was going to 100,000 people every Sunday. The reason I did not want to promote it is because I wanted it to be as pure as possible, not looked upon as just some promotion, and I felt that if it was meant to be seen by others, others would forward it, and others would subscribe. 

I’ve been told that some of these have been read out loud at family tables and gatherings during holidays, and the result is a few more people subscribing every week. I’m humbled when that happens. All of this happened because someone once told me I should write down my stories.

To every person reading this, please consider writing down your stories, the things you want others to know. It’s special to me, just doing it for myself each week. But if you’re willing, let others get a glimpse of your heart. Maybe share it with a friend or family member from time to time. Not so it grows, or gets lots of followers, but because you’ll be making a difference in their lives.

I can assure you, my kids don’t read this. I’m not sure they even know about it. At 20, they have other things on their minds. I can’t be sure they will ever discover it — I’m not talking about it at home. But my hope is that one day, when I’m long gone, maybe they will Google my name and find a world of thoughts from their dad. It’s not only my gift to them, and to my friends, it’s a gift to myself, because it forces me to think about things and put them in writing. Not every week can be a gem; I’m lucky if I get one gem a year. But there is value in every word, which is why I want to encourage you.

We all need an outlet. For me, it’s writing and painting, occasional woodworking, tinkering in my shop, or learning something new. It keeps life more interesting, makes work less boring, and somehow enriches one’s life. I encourage you to find an outlet for yourself. 

Finally, you have a lot to contribute to the world. If you’re still breathing, you are here for a purpose. God isn’t done with you yet. Even if you’re retired and done with your career. God does not grant breath without purpose. Find it, use it. Explore. Your impact is important. 

The Purpose of Christmas2022-12-22T17:01:56-05:00
18 12, 2022

My Favorite Christmas Decorations


The smell of Christmas cookies is still in the air, combined with the scent of pine from our new Christmas tree. As I make my way out to the porch on this balmy Texas morning, sticky pine needles stick to my bare feet. Here I sit, staring out over a fresh morning, cuppa in hand, awaiting the last moments of peace as the hectic Christmas week is about to begin.

Big Muscles

Though I love to work, I’m looking forward to some time off. Like a muscle that is flexed constantly, your brain needs a break once in a while, a distraction, to open up to new possibilities. Christmas is the ending and the beginning. 

Year-Round Christmas

When I was a kid, my father would insist we get our Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving. He loved the feel of Christmas, and in the last two years of his life, he left his Christmas tree up the whole time because he loved it so much and it brought so many memories.\

The Old Church

My Grandmother Luella was fun to visit at Christmas because she had bubble lights on her tree, which were probably from the 1940s. They were almost like miniature lava lamps, but if you touched them, you’d get burned! She also had a little plastic church; you would wind it up, and the music box would play while the doors opened. It was a favorite of all the grandkids, and I think everyone wanted it when she passed. I’m not sure who got it; it wasn’t me.

OK, So It’s Tacky

We grow fond of decorations. They become like family heirlooms, even if some are silly and some are tacky. When the kids were little my mom sent this Christmas angel with wings that light up in multiple colors. As tacky as it is, the kids still insist we put it out, and my guess is that if we are ever blessed with grandkids, it will be the decoration they all want to inherit when we pass. 

A Song from Bing

One of my favorites is a cartoon-like Christmas caroller leaning against a lamppost, looking like Bing Crosby holding a microphone. When you press the button, it sings like Bing. Silly, tacky, but fun. Everyone groans when I push the button.

Cookie Cutters

Mom used to make Christmas cookies, pulling out these red plastic cookie cutters from the ’50s. I’m not sure what happened to them, but we bought a set at an antique store, as a reminder. Of course, they get used for making cookies.

Memory Bombs

Each time we put up the tree, the ornaments are like a time machine, stimulating memories. We have some from our childhoods, and lots our kids made when they were little. Ornaments from the kids’ band, ornaments from places we visited, ornaments from celebrations. 

I never really stopped to think about these things till now, but these heirlooms carry important family history, and they often remain when our loved ones are gone, reminding us of them.

Each family has traditions. We always set a place at the table for Jesus, and we bake a baby Jesus figure into a cake. And we read the Christmas story from the Bible before we ever open gifts, so we’re putting Christ first.

Though I’m easily annoyed by the pressure of gift buying and the overt commercialization in retail, bringing Christmas out even before Halloween, I’m grateful for the tradition and the feeling it gives us each year.

What are your family traditions?
What are your favorite memories of Christmas past?
Favorite Christmas movies?

Christmas is, in my humble opinion, Christ bringing us together, keeping families together, and helping us to remember and honor those who can’t be with us. It’s a time of joy, allowing us to perhaps forget for a brief time some of the difficult moments we face the rest of the year.

In just one week, those of us who celebrate will be gathered around a tree, creating memories and reliving memories.

May your Christmas week be filled with Joy.

Eric Rhoads

PS: If you’re not feeling in the Christmas spirit, find someplace with some Christmas music and decorations. We make a point to drive through some well-lit neighborhoods at night, and though we show up at our place of worship most Sundays, we love the Christmas music this time of year, and we’ll be there Christmas Eve. It’s a time to be part of a bigger family, where everyone is welcome. 

We have some people very close to us who will be trying to pull some joy out of their Christmas this year, because of a lost child, and a lost father and grandpa. If you’re experiencing this, you are in our thoughts and prayers. It’s hard to be filled with joy at times like this, but it’s my hope that you find some joy in the memories found in your family traditions.

My Favorite Christmas Decorations2022-12-16T16:46:48-05:00
11 12, 2022

My Favorite Thing


Like the song, I have a peaceful, easy feeling today. Everything around me is quiet, like a Sunday morning should be. No road noise, just the flutter of bird wings, an occasional tweet, and the sound of some leaves lightly brushing against the house.

We all need peaceful moments for those times when we’re looking for a life preserver during stormy times, difficult family challenges, or facing a crazy world. My least favorite thing in life is going to the mall for obligatory Christmas shopping. I try to only go once a year, and the last two years I’ve avoided it. Why run around like crazy trying to buy something for someone they probably don’t want anyway? Perhaps that’s a bit skeptical, but, though I love the holiday season, the pressure to perform can be a bit overwhelming. Yet with some downtime or peace, I can face anything, even shopping.

Maturity Works

The gift of maturity is another form of peace. The old, younger me used to get worked up, tense, bothered, and worried. The new me, the last decade or so, takes most of it in stride, and avoids getting worked up till there is truly a reason to jump into fight or flight. Even things that probably should get more of a reaction, I tend to take with calm strength.

Lingering Fear

Life’s lessons tend to kick us in the teeth. Once we’ve experienced a lot of really hard days, sometimes they become less hard. For instance, as a kid I used to worry about my parents dying, to the point of obsession. That fear stayed with me for years. Yet when it actually happened, it was not as awful as I had imagined (though it was awful). I can remember my dad telling me that he did not really grow up until his dad had passed. I found that odd, but it came true in my own life. Suddenly my parents, and most of my aunts and uncles, are gone, and we are the next generation. It’s sobering, yet invigorating at the same time. And one day, our kids will be seeing the torch passed. As my wife reminds me, it’s life on the farm. It’s what happens. No one escapes.

By Example

But of course now it’s in my hands to keep the family together, create family gatherings and memories, and teach my kids how so they will do it for their own families. I never received the manual, but I did have some great examples to follow.

With Christmas dinners and time to spend “hanging out” and not as busy as normal, the sugar plum fairies are making me wonder about what I can do that is deliberate, but feels natural. Something that will create moments my kids will tell their kids about. 

In the past I’ve mentioned the idea of being deliberate, but now it’s taken on a whole new meaning.

The Gift of Home

Because we’ve not traveled in a couple of years as a family, we asked the kids what they wanted to do if they could go anywhere in the world. Their answer was just to be home. For a brief moment, that made me feel as though I had accomplished part of my goal. Keep ’em home and wanting to be there. Probably the reason is because something from before created a memory for them.

The challenge never ends.

Two weeks from today, we celebrate Christmas. We will be rushed getting ready, and then, hopefully, things will stop for a while so we can just be together.

These are the moments I live for.

Eric Rhoads

PS: I’m still working on gift ideas. Anything but going to the mall, hopefully.

If there is someone in your life who might love to learn to paint, Watercolor Live in January has 30 of the world’s most brilliant watercolor artists teaching for four days. It takes people to the next level fast. You can find more at www.watercolorlive.com.

My Favorite Thing2022-12-09T18:04:32-05:00
4 12, 2022

The Best Advice I Ever Received


In the middle of a deep sleep and a wonderful dream, suddenly the quiet is harshly interrupted by the sound of the whining that wakes me up. As I let the dogs out for the morning, the brisk cold air hits my skin and rapidly awakens my otherwise sleepy state of mind as a perfect, richly colored orange glow sits at the horizon and its light bathes the trees in color. I may have preferred to sleep in, but when the dogs get me up early, I always get to see the sun come up. It’s a beautiful sight I never tire of seeing.

The other day a friend asked me, “What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?” I paused, thought deeply, and said, “I’ll have to get back to you on that. It’s a tall order.” And it is, because I’ve been blessed with so many people in my life to offer advice. My dad always offered amazing advice and ideas on business, as did a few of my mentors. 

I’ve been thinking about this topic all week, because it’s not easy to determine what was the best advice ever.

What about you? What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Where did you receive it?

The great advice and lessons I’ve received in my life came from unexpected people at unexpected times, from books, from attending tons of speeches and lectures, from reading lots of articles, and from mentors. Being curious, asking questions, is a magnet for advice, some good, some not. 

There is more than one thing…

I can’t land on just one piece of advice, and I can’t land on whether it should be about life or business, but here is what I came up with:

If you set out to make money as your only purpose, you’re likely to fail. If you set out to help people, solve their problems, and put them first, the world truly will beat a path to your door.  

Do what you love. Once you’ve done things you don’t love, you can realize the importance of sticking with what you do love. Try lots of things — you’ll be surprised to learn things you think you’ll like, you won’t, and things you don’t think you’ll like, you might. Finding your passion may take years, but once you find passion, you’ll be deeply fulfilled.

Shortcuts can seem like a good idea, but you really don’t grow till you get your teeth kicked in a few times and learn lessons you can’t learn from shortcuts. I never wanted to hear that when I was young, but it turned out to be important.You will have temptations through much of your life. By defining the guardrails in your life, what you’re not willing to do, you won’t give in to the temptations.

Everything you do boils down to your reputation. Protect it with your life. Operate at high ethics always, and if you make a mistake, admit it fast.

Most people are like a pinball — they bounce from place to place. But when you have goals aligned with purpose and passion, you’re more likely to hit them. Goals are your GPS; everything else is a detour. Do something toward your goals every single day, no matter what.

Focus on outcomes with everything you do. What is the outcome needed from this phone call, this meeting, taking this time? What are the outcomes people need to improve their lives?

Rehearse everything you do. I rehearse meetings, phone calls, and anything that is important to me to succeed. I always rehearse them going the way I want them to go, and more often than not, they turn out the way I want them to.

Nothing worth doing is worth doing poorly. If you’re going to do something, you might as well do it as if you’re the best in the world so that you push your limits beyond excellence.

Be a world changer. Sometimes little things can change the world. Make the world better with the time you have on earth.

Fear is a natural instinct designed to protect you, but face your fear, no matter what. Each time it gets easier, and each time you take a giant leap forward.

Embrace mistakes. For every good thing I do, I make dozens of mistakes first. Mistakes are lessons to correct our next steps.

You can’t change the world without a solid work ethic. Work harder than everyone else, work smarter, study more, take risks, and don’t expect magic to drop in your lap without effort. Success is sweeter when sweat is involved. When you’re exhausted, keep going. Rich life experiences don’t come easily.s

Listen carefully. You learn more from asking questions than trying to be the one with all the answers. 

Embrace criticism. You might learn something, or it might tick you off so much that it drives you to launch the next big thing.

Eradicate negativity from your own head, and remove negative people from your life.

Love haters. When you’re doing good things, haters will start showing up. And love your enemies. 

Find a strong life partner who will encourage you, support you, but also challenge you. Don’t discount their ideas and thoughts just because you think you know better. They often know you better than you know yourself, can see shortcomings you can’t see, and can see things you are too blind to accept or recognize.

I Hate Advice!

I’m not proud to admit that when I was young and a little too sure of myself, I thought I knew it all and was not eager to take the advice of others. Little did I know that advice can be life-changing in many ways. It was gaining experience that helped me realize I could not do it all on my own and I needed to embrace advice.

I’d love you to comment about the best advice you’ve ever received. I’m guessing you have a lot you can teach all of us.

Eric Rhoads

PS: Recently I was talking to someone I met through a friend. He told me all about his business and his passion for what he did, which I thought was wonderful. But when I said, “What do you do for yourself when you’re not working?” he paused, thought about it, and said, “Absolutely nothing. I’m either working or watching the news, maybe reading from time to time.” He told me, “I have no hobbies.” 

Though it’s none of my business, I told him my story. “That used to be me. I worked all the time, I had lots of stress, and I spent the rest of my time numb, doing mindless things. But I started looking for more. When I discovered painting, it changed my life. I was no longer bored. If I painted, all my stress melted away. And when I was being creative in other ways, I was happier.”

His response was that he had no talent and did not get the “hobby gene.” I then told him that I’d felt the same way, didn’t feel I could ever do something like paint, because I had zero talent or ability. But I had discovered that it’s something anyone can learn, much like following a recipe. It’s not about talent. It’s about finding a good teacher, sticking with it during the early stages when you’re really struggling, and eventually producing better and better paintings.

It changed my life so much that I ended up making most of my work related to art. 

Why am I telling you this? If you or someone you know needs more to life, needs a hobby, needs to reduce stress, I guarantee I can teach you or anyone to paint.

One of the best places to start is at my January Watercolor Live online event. It’s got a Beginner’s Day for basic principles, and then three more days of the top watercolor masters in the world teaching. And if you attend and don’t feel you got your money’s worth on day one, I’ll refund your money.

This would be a great gift for you (or for some folks in your family), and you’ll never look back.

The Best Advice I Ever Received2022-12-03T05:44:44-05:00